That (in)famous tourism slogan – the questions to ask

“Pilipinas – kay ganda!” It was to replace “Wow Philippines,” which didn’t do much since the Philippine share of the tourism market remains miniscule.  We wanted to have our very own to compete with “Uniquely Singapore,” “Incredible India,” “Malaysia Truly Asia,” or “Amazing Thailand.”

The new Pearl of the Orient

But the government officials have taken it back because of public criticism.  There is no need to rehash the supposed “plagiarism” involved or the admitted problem with links to porn.

And as hilarious as it may seem, I wonder about the “feast” on the supposed ineptness of government officials.  Do the critics have it right?

For what they’re worth, the following questions should be asked:

1. Who is the customer when it comes to slogans? Presumably, it’s the potential visitor. So, one idea suggested is that there ought to be a contest, just like a beauty contest.  I doubt if this idea makes sense, unless it can be shown that democratic voting, a la American Idol, can divine the mind of the customer. (The story of the epic failure of New Coke was supposedly one of not listening to the customer.)

2. I’m sure government officials did some due diligence, perhaps not enough because of the potential links to porn. How much due diligence is enough? Who will decide? Of course, the public can weigh in any time they want, but this goes back to question no. 1. (But Sec. Alberto Lim’s speech on the failed slogan also leaves a little something to be desired [1]:  Why does he ask the audience to rally behind the brand?  The brand, if done right, is just an extension of the product.  The slogan that “failed” may actually be good, in which case no rallying is needed. The hard work is quality control, so see question no. 3 below.)

3. There is near universal agreement that the Philippines is beautiful. That is the bedrock of the proposed slogan, whatever its faults. I suppose even the tourists will agree, provided we then show that beauty when they get here. So, the slogan must walk the talk. How do we ensure that? This is critical because if you promise more than you deliver, well, you can end up turning off the word-of-mouth market.

4.  So far, who are the most loyal customers of Philippine tourism?  One segment is captive – the balikbayans.  Another is small but probably growing – potential retirees, and their friends who have already taken up residence in the Philippines.  The vacationer market is fickle, and we can’t compete well in this market until we solve deep-seated infrastructural problems, such as traffic congestion and inadequate local transport facilities, oligopolistic local airlines, or the high cost of electricity.

What matters in the end is also not whether the product sells.  There are times, selfish ones, when I get to enjoy the beauty of the Philippines, and am glad to be almost alone, as if I had a secret to keep.  Groucho Marx once said he didn’t want to join a club that wanted him “in.”  Those who’ve found their way around may not want too many “outsiders” in either.  So if the slogan fails, maybe that works.


[1] Sec. Lim said:  “Some of you came tonight with your own brand idea in mind. I can tell you with conviction that if you cannot convince 50 other people in this room who brought along their own brand ideas, that yours is the best brand, it has absolutely no chance of succeeding. That’s why I’d like to invite all of you to join hands and rally behind the brand we are about to reveal. Together, let’s make the brand not only believable, but also real.” (courtesy of Ellen Tordesillas)


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